Pete Brandt’s album ‘Songs From The Basement’ sees the Bristol folk-rock songwriter displaying his range and quality across 23 tracks
he Kevin O’Keefe-designed cover of Pete Brandt’s Songs From The Basement depicts a scene of ghoulish psychedelia, as though the title character of the beloved children’s TV show Funny Bones had thrown on skin and clothes and deigned to step foot outside of his ‘dark, dark, house’, with each step caught in motion. While any shadows that Brandt’s LP might reside under would be cast from a regal fern, rather than a basement door, it feels very much of the same staccato 2D world – devilishly playful and slightly surreal.
This quality is felt keenly on Brandt’s double album, which has the sense of David Byrne and Burt Bacharach coming together to provide a folk-infected soundtrack to the classic French cartoon film Belle Ville Rendezvous. This songwriting union is felt in tracks such as album opener ’Neath The Starry Sky and My Heart Sways; Mr Rat even hints towards electro swing. Like Byrne’s brilliant collective Brandt is also not adverse to calypso influences, such as on Small Man Big Head.
However Songs From The Basement is no mere paean to American new wave or French folk. Brandt treats his songwriting to the same quintessentially English, surrealist quality that marked out the pre-acid breakdown Syd Barrett. Songs like Cornichon and Tears Of Salt are fit to have provided the musical backdrop to one of the Pink Floyd singer’s blissed-out dreams.
The risk of any double album is that it can be overlong. However the variety in Brandt’s songwriting means that this is never even on the horizon. Elements of funk, soul and classic rock can be heard on tracks such as Scientific Wonders and the crunchy Feel That Devil, while the downtempo Love Is Shining Through has the same alt-country tinge that decorates the latter-day work of Conor Oberst.
Songs From The Basement is the work of a confident and refined artist, one that fans of past and present songwriting will find much to enjoy.
Verdict: Playful and surreal folk-rock